Mark E.  
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What it was like to be Married to Lyudmila

Russian vs. American:

Before meeting Lyudmila, I would have expected an American husband and Russian wife to have many cultural differences. Growing up on opposite sides of the earth in different economic systems we should be two totally different people. However, through this experience I have learned that people are the same regardless of where they grow up and who their governments are. In fact, Lyudmila and I had more in common as far as our beliefs than 98% of the Americans I meet.

Some stereotypes are probably true when Russian women first move to America. Russian women are expected to wait on their husbands much like American wives waited on their husbands before the early 70s. Russian women tend to dress better than American women when in public. We all have stereotypes of how someone from a different culture behaves. Some are probably true depending on the individual. However, once someone moves into a new culture they begin to simulate and any stereotypes that may have been true tend to fade.

Although Lyudmila would not admit to it, she was as American as anyone else. We split the house work (although as with most American husbands I probably only did about 35% of the work.), I don't think Lyudmila ever ironed any of my clothing, we eat frozen food or leftovers most of the time, she cleaned the bathroom sink and I cleaned the shower - we were a typical American family. One "Russian" trait that Lyudmila maintained was needing to look nice while in public. She would either change her cloths or stay in the car if we needed to run to the hardware store while in the middle of a messy project. Other than that, Lyudmila was as American as anyone else even though she would probably disagree with that statement.

Communication was sometimes a problem. We would joke that she didn't know what I had really asked when she agreed to marry me. Jokes sometimes didn't translate as jokes. It was not uncommon for her to say something that could come across as a negative or hurtful statement even though she didn't mean to say something negative. Shortly after marriage we learned not to jump to conclusions if it sounded like the other person was not being as supportive we would have liked. An example would be the use of the phrase "Uh-Oh." As Americans when someone says Uh-Oh we tend to think something bad has happened. To Lyudmila, Uh-Oh was a sound to describe something interesting or different. We did sometimes have problems because we truly didn't understand what the other was saying. However, I think with time the communication problem became an asset to our marriage.

Another communication problem in our marriage was my not understanding Russian. Lyudmila and I would talk to each other for hours on end. Aside from the occasional problem understanding each other's jokes or emotional expressions, we didn't have many communication problems. However, I could not understand any Russian when visiting her family or attending her church. It didn't bother me that I could not understand what was being said. But we would probably have been even closer if I could have shared that part of her life. She would always tell me what happened but I'm sure I missed out on most of the details. I would have enjoyed sharing more of the boring details.

I think to be married to a spouse from a different culture helped to bring us closer. We were both always a little bit out of place. When I was with Lyudmila and her friends, I was the foreigner and when Lyudmila was with me and my friends she was the foreigner. We were constantly trying to make things easier for the other person to help them feel at ease. She was my strength and hopefully I was hers.

The best part about being married to someone from a different country is sharing American culture and being exposed to their culture. It was kind of like being a kid. When I exposed her to something she had not seen before it was kind of like I was also experiencing it for the first time myself. The world seemed new and a bit more interesting. And learning about Russian culture was kind of like being on vacation while still at home.

Personal Feelings:

For some reason, I always thought Lyudmila was one of the most attractive women I had ever met. Being married to someone who is extremely attractive made me feel like I was extra special. I felt like people must wonder what was so special about me to be with such an amazing women. I felt ten feet tall!

On the surface Lyudmila seemed to be timid and shy. However, she was probably the most stubborn and complicated person I have ever known. I once told her she was complicated. She looked at me with a surprised look on her face and said that was the same thing her other boyfriends told her. Although she was stubborn and complicated, it was in a challenging not negative way.

Lyudmila's greatest gift was her ability to make other people feel comfortable. She had something about her that made people feel relaxed when she was around. She had a gift to know exactly what to ask people. It was easy for her to communicate on an extremely personal level with people she barley knew. I can remember feeling awkward not knowing what to say to someone when out of the blue Lyudmila would ask them the most intelligent question. While I was getting ready to talk about the wether Lyudmila would ask some question like "what are your kids going to do for summer break?" (Actually her question would be much better than that but even as I type I'm not able to come up with something as clever and personal as Lyudmila.)

Goofy Husbands:

I'm sure all wives think their husbands are a little clumsy, silly, reckless - the list goes on and on. Lyudmila used to get upset with me, every time I would hurt myself. She would say "be c-a-r-e-f-u-l !" And then she would give me a short lecture about how I shouldn't always rush and hurt myself. All while I would be dripping blood or suffering from some other injury. I don't think she understood that small cuts, brushes, burns don't really hurt when one is a clumsy man.

Lyudmila referred to me as Clownchick meaning small clown. She said she picked that as a nickname because I was always making her laugh. She always called me Clownchick. I can't remember her once using my birth name in the last year of our marriage. Some people thought I should be embarrassed to have my wife refer to me by such a silly name. I always felt the opposite. It made me feel extremely blessed to know that when my wife thought of me she thought about smiling - all husbands should be so lucky.


I'm not a talented enough writer to describe how wonderful it was having Lyudmila as my wife. Looking into her eyes and seeing the relaxed, happy, content expression she would display with her eyes when she looked back is what comes to mind - but don't ask me how to express the feeling that accompanies the image.

It is hard to imagine ever being that blessed again in my lifetime.

Last modified 8/30/02